Updated on 03.12.12

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Daylight Savings Time Edition

Trent Hamm

I consider the switches to and from Daylight Savings Time to be largely useless in the modern era. It disrupts sleep patterns, causes people who forget to adjust clocks to miss appointments, and adds something else to worry about to our hectic lives.

I understood the need for it in the past, but as the economy changes, the case for the switch gets worse and worse. I look forward to the day when the time change completely goes away.

(Of course, I may be grumpy because it really threw off the sleep cycle of our children, causing a few long nights with overly tired children and bad dreams.)

Recapturing Wasted Time We all waste time. The question is how can we still get value out of that waste. (@ saving advice)

The Cost of Living off the Grid This article matches up well with most of my calculations. Living off the grid ends up more or less paying for itself over the long run and it can be very psychically envigorating. (@ pt money)

What Losing Weight Taught Me About Saving Money They actually function in the same way: small sacrifices lead to a life change. (@ well heeled)

Hyperbolic Discounting: Why your decisions are already made before you make them Most people would choose to have a lesser reward today than a greater reward tomorrow. Marketers know this and exploit it all the time. (@ money cactus)

Conflicted Virtually everything we do is the result of a conflict on some level. Piecing together the nature of that conflict and resolving it can make a huge difference in how we act. (@ seth godin)

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  1. T'Pol says:

    Our Government decided that this will be the last year daylight savings switch will occur in Turkey. After 2012, we shall not be switching back and forth. Some people say, it is a bad thing because we would be doing something the other nations will not be and it will affect business life. We’ll see.

  2. Amy says:

    Energy savings (which I do believe exist) aside, as someone who works away from home and has a lengthy commute, I sure appreciate having a little bit of daylight left when I get home. During the winter it feels like I might as well be working in a coal mine, because it’s dark when I get to work and when I leave. The extra daylight in the summer evenings due to DST really improves my mood and outlook.

  3. Johanna says:

    “I understood the need for it in the past, but as the economy changes, the case for the switch gets worse and worse”

    You’re assuming that DST is for the farmers? If so, then no, you don’t understand the need for it in the past.

  4. valleycat1 says:

    Saving. Not Savings.

    This year I was relieved to make the spring switch, as my body never adjusted to real time in the winter.

    And Johanna is correct. Farmers work sunup to sundown (or, around here, at least start at sunup) no matter what the clock says. I’d expect an Iowa resident to understand that.

  5. Liz says:

    Like #2, I really enjoy the extra light at the end of the day. But I also like light in the morning, too. It makes it easier to get out of bed, that’s for sure, but I think the extra at the end of the day helps me get more done at home. In winter I just want to hibernate.

  6. Riki says:

    Not every Canadian province goes to Daylight Saving Time. When I lived in Saskatchewan it felt really strange to see all of my friends on the East coast change the clocks when I didn’t have to. And it meant that the time difference changed all the time.

    Personally, the change doesn’t really bother me. Get some blackout curtains for your kids’ bedroom if it’s such a problem.

  7. Andrew says:

    It’s an hour. One hour! Don’t you have something–anything– better to complain about?

  8. valleycat1 says:

    I enjoyed the well heeled post on weight loss and saving money. Thanks, Trent!

  9. Johanna says:

    95+% of people who lose weight regain it all within five years. How many people who pay off debt find themselves, five years later, with as much debt or more? Maybe some do, but not 95%.

    If that’s not proof that weight loss is not the same thing as managing your finances, I don’t know what is.

  10. Other Jonathan says:

    I don’t know which way daylight saving time works – are we turning the clocks back for the winter, or are we turning them ahead for the summer? I.e., which is the “regular” time? That said, I would strongly prefer that it always be the “summer” schedule – darkness beginning at 5pm as it does in southern California in the winter is fairly miserable.

  11. Josh says:

    Johanna, I would argue that 95% of who make sustainable lifestyle changes that they stick with, will keep that weight off, just like people who make sustainable spending changes.

    Their is crash-dieting and crash-budgeting, neither work for the long-term unless the individual makes it a priority and makes sustainable changes.

    Simply put, they are not the same but very similar.

  12. Misha says:

    Jonathan, winter is the “regular” time – hence the appellations “Eastern Standard Time” and “Eastern Daylight Time” (pick appropriate time zone here if you are in a state/province/nation that participates).

  13. Johanna says:

    @Josh: So how would you explain why people are more prone to crash-dieting than to crash-budgeting? Why is sustainable weight loss so much harder to come by than sustainable financial stability?

  14. Evita says:

    #1 the Europeans change to DST at a later date than the North-Americans, creating confusion for a few weeks!
    #3 Johanna, you’re assuming that Trent assumes that DST was for the farmers !
    He wrote nothing of the sort. We don’t know what he is assuming !
    Now if someone could explain clearly how all this bothersome hour-changing was/is beneficial to the economy….

  15. Johanna says:

    I should have said: *If* we accept that the only reason people regain lost weight is that they lost it in a crash diet, how would you explain why people are more prone to crash-dieting than to crash-budgeting? (I don’t agree that that’s the only reason, but I’m not interested in having that argument again today.)

  16. Tracy says:

    Plus it’s demonstrably false that ‘counting calories in, calories out’ works – every single study has shown that the human body doesn’t work like that.

    While it’s demonstrably true that ‘spend less than you earn’ does work, because budgets DO work like that.

  17. Kevin says:

    Trent wrote:

    “I consider the switches to and from Daylight Savings Time to be largely useless in the modern era”

    Evita asked:

    “Now if someone could explain clearly how all this bothersome hour-changing was/is beneficial to the economy…”

    If anything, Daylight Saving Time is more relevant now than ever before.

    The purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to reduce energy consumption. The average 9-to-5-er comes home from work in the early evening. If it’s dark, they turn a bunch of lights on, burning electricity, until they go to bed at, say, 10:00 PM.

    But if it is still light out, then they don’t turn the lights on until later. But they still go to bed at 10:00. So the lights are on for fewer hours, thus using less energy.

    Logically, you would assume that the time change is still pointless, because any hour of energy saving you’re gaining in the evening, you’re just giving back in the morning by needing to turn lights on earlier. But due to peoples’ schedules, it doesn’t work out that way, and it turns out that by adjusting the clocks as we do, it results in a net energy savings.

    Personally, I would prefer we continually operate on Daylight Saving Time, and never switch to “normal” time. Watching the sun set at 4:30 PM is just depressing.

  18. Other Jonathan says:

    Misha, thanks for the explanation – I’ve never heard of Eastern Daylight Time (or Pacific Daylight Time, for my time zone)…It seems also that if anything, daylight saving time should be to move the clock ahead during the WINTER, when days are short. Oh well.

  19. Kevin says:


    “Plus it’s demonstrably false that ‘counting calories in, calories out’ works – every single study has shown that the human body doesn’t work like that.”

    Really? “Every single study?” Do the laws of thermodynamics not apply when it comes to the human metabolism? Are humans capable of burning more calories than they eat, and still gaining weight somehow? Or can humans consume more calories than they burn, and the extra calories magically disappear and the person mysteriously still manages to lose weight?

    I’d like to see some of those “studies.” It shouldn’t be hard to cite several, since “every single one” of them reached the same conclusion – that calories in/calories out is apparently a myth (physics be damned).

    I followed calories in/calories out and lost 25 pounds. Wanna study THAT?

  20. Josh says:

    Johanna I agree it is more difficult to maintain weight because there are a lot more variables involved, but the basic concepts are the same.

    Perhaps it is that eventually everyone reaches a limit where they cannot take on any more debt, or it starts making their lives so difficult they are forced to change, or at least modify their behavior. However, there is no limit to how much you can eat or how out of shape you can get, or at least, that limit is much greater in a deteriorating health sense than a deteriorating finance sense. You can dig yourself a much, much bigger hole health-wise.

    Tracy #16, in the vast majority of the cases, it is as simple as calories in vs. calories out.

  21. BJD says:

    speaking of daylight saving time, it looks like Trent’s server needs to have its time updated. The 2pm posts have been coming out at 3pm.

  22. Johanna says:

    @Josh: But we’re not talking about people who struggle to lose weight, pay off debt, or save money in the first place. My question is about people who have *already* lost weight (or paid off debt, etc.), but end up backsliding all the way back to where they started. For those people who have already “gotten in shape” (physically or fiscally), what does it matter how out of shape they could have been?

  23. Johanna says:

    @BJD: Trent never updates the server for DST. He always leaves it on standard time year round.

  24. CNP76 says:

    #17 Ok here is the part that doesn’t add up to me. If there is more awake and home time in the daylight hours doesn’t that mean WAY more energy to cool the house to an acceptable temp in the summer (when we do this time change)? As opposed to the energy use of a few light bulbs, doesn’t running the air use a whole lot more and thus negate any savings from the lack of light bulbs?

  25. Josh says:

    @Johanna, there are some studies that once you start losing weight your body does make your cravings for food stronger. I think it is a survival/defense mechanism that can take a long time to adjust. Also, a lot of people view diets as temporary, not permanent changes to their lifestyle. The same can be said for budgeting, I just think budgeting is a lot easier to control than other lifestyle choices (that’s my opinion not fact)

  26. BJD says:

    @Johanna – I’m guessing this is Trent’s way of showing us how the county no longer needs DST! It’s his way of protesting it by not updating his servers.

  27. Tracy says:


    Kevin, a calorie is by definition, based on the amount of energy required to warm a gram of water a single degree at a specific atmospheric pressure. Which, btw, is NOT the human body. Hence, my statement. The human body *changes* – the calories in/calories out model tries (very very very very very badly) to approximate how these changes impact the burning of food for energy but it’s a simplistic and failed model.

    Calories In, Calories Out does NOT work as a diet.

    But you know, also try googling ‘harvard, calories in, calories out’ and read up. Or continue to be wrong, whatever floats your boat.

    Even the studies that claim that they support the model – the math doesn’t add up … the weight loss and/or gain doesn’t correlate with the calorie difference. Cause it doesn’t work. Try reading The Obesity Epidemic by Zoe Harcombe – it’s a bit technical in sections but it breaks down the studies extremely well.

  28. Baley says:

    @CNP76: I don’t understand your question. Why are we running the air more because of the time change? personally, I like my house cooler at night while I’m trying to sleep, so I’m not sure what that has to do with being at home while the sun’s still up. Presumably one would keep their house at a comfortable temperature whether it’s light outside or dark outside.

  29. Johanna says:

    “there are some studies that once you start losing weight your body does make your cravings for food stronger. I think it is a survival/defense mechanism”

    Huh. It’s almost like you need food to survive or something.

  30. jim says:

    Weight loss and budgeting are not exactly the same thing and are not equally easy/difficult for everyone. THere are however some obvious similarities between them.

    (I seem to be stuck in moderation limbo, maybe this will get through)

  31. jim says:

    Ok, that got through. I wonder if too much discussion of ‘dieting’ keywords triggers the spam filter. I imagine that dieting miracle cures are common spam topic.

  32. Johanna says:

    @jim: Again, the question I am asking is about weight *maintenance* versus budget maintenance (or “net worth maintenance,” you might call it), not the difficulty of losing weight/budgeting in the first place.

  33. Tracy says:


    Heh, there is ONE obvious similarity between weight maintenance and budget maintenance I can think of – the freedom with which people judge those that they don’t think are doing it the ‘right’ way!

  34. lurker carl says:

    Biological systems are far more complex than a household budget.

    Having gained and lost about 60 pounds four different times throughout my adult life, I can testify that it really is calories in/calories out. But it is not that simple in the real world, biology tries hard to keep us from starving to death.

  35. jim says:

    Johanna, yeah but didn’t you raise the topic of maintenance initially to assert : “If that’s not proof that weight loss is not the same thing as managing your finances, I don’t know what is.”
    Hence you were arguing that “weight loss” and “managing your finances” are not the same thing?

  36. Andrew says:

    It’s a good thing Trent wasn’t around during World War II, when the USA was on double-daylight saving time year-round. He really would have lost it….

  37. Andrew says:

    Sorry, it was the UK, not the USA, which was on double daylight saving time during WWII. I knew it existed, but I should have checked my facts before posting.

  38. Johanna says:

    “Johanna, yeah but didn’t you raise the topic of maintenance initially”


    I was, very clearly, talking about *backsliding* from weight loss versus from debt repayment – that is, I was talking about maintenance.

  39. Kacie says:

    4/5 were my editor’s picks for the Carnival of Personal Finance this week

  40. deRuiter says:

    #16 Tracy @ 12:38 pm March 14th, 2012
    Plus it’s demonstrably false that ‘counting calories in, calories out’ works – every single study has shown that the human body doesn’t work like that.
    Tracy, the laws of physics do work, the human body is the most accurate calorie counter in the world, 35 superfluous calories a day, and in 100 days you’ve gained a pound. Cut back to 350 calories less than you need per day and you lose a pound in ten days. You can’t fool the human body, but fat people fool themselves in their minds all the time. “Oh I eat like a bird.” True, birds consume food which is equal to a large amount of their body weight each day, but birds are physically active and fat people tend to be sluggish. Tracy, try looking at photos of concentration camp victims during WWII, they were forced to live on a low amount of calories and burned a lot of calories at forced labor, they lost weight, became gaunt, unlike fat people who cheat on their diets and refuse to admit to themselves that they are cheating on the amount of calories they consume. The reason “calories in/calories out” doesn’t work in America is that overweight people lie to themselves about how much they eat. They consume oversize portions, they are often sneak eaters, they convenienetly “forget” snacks like browsing at the free cheese sample display at Shop Rite where the fat inevitably double dip while the thin pass the display or have one sample. Aside from those on steroids, fat people in America are obese because they consume more calories than they burn, sit too much, eat too much, and lie to themselves about how many calories they swallow. It is just that there is no money to be made, no research grants to milk when you say, “Eat fewer calories than you burn per day and you will lose weight. To do this multiply your ideal weight by eleven, and that is the number of calories you should consume each day. If you eat that number of calories, whether as pie, ice cream, raw vegetables, lean broiled chicken, or low fat yoghurt, STOP EATING UNTIL THE NEXT DAY. You will lose weight, attain your desired weight.” This technique works, but no one can make any money flogging it, no one can get a grant to study fat people in America, so it isn’t popular althought it is free and works, will even save fat people money on grocery buying. If you want to go further into this, it will save fat people time grocery shopping too as they will buy less. Look in the carts of people at food stores and see the junk food and calorie dense foods in the baskets of the fat, and the fish, chicken, lean meat, veggies, fruit and low fat dairy products in the baskets of the thin!

  41. Riki says:

    Sometimes I wish I could see deRuiter’s world . . .it must be a strange and fantastical place to live because it doesn’t resemble the real world at all.

  42. Kevin says:

    @Riki: Really? I thought deRuiter made perfect sense. What specifically did he say that you disagree with? Can you prove him wrong (with facts, not anecdotes?)

  43. Johanna says:

    Looks to me that deRuiter (and now Kevin too) has adopted an unfalsifiable position. You can believe anything you want, as long as you’re willing to accuse anyone presenting evidence to the contrary of lying.

    So let me ask you, Kevin: What kind of “facts, not anecdotes” would you be willing to accept as proving deRuiter wrong, that you wouldn’t dismiss by saying “oh, they’re just lying”?

  44. Tracy says:

    Hahah, I was just about to comment something to that effect, Johanna.

    And why, Kevin, do you demand studies (which I already gave you, but you are for some unknown reason ignoring in order to demand additional studies) from Riki and myself and yet only accept anecodotes from yourself and deRuiter?

    Although to be honest, I don’t think there ever HAS been a study of ‘how many people falsify their data in order to continue to receive grant money’ – the assertion deRuiter made and you believe makes perfect sense.

  45. Kevin says:


    Well, for one, a case study where a person ate more than they burned, and still lost weight. Or, vice-versa, where they ate less than they burned and still gained weight.

    The physics is undeniable. If you burn more energy than you’ve consumed, then the difference MUST come from your stores (fat). If you consume more than you burn, the excess MUST be stored somewhere (fat).

    Yes, I understand that some peoples’ bodies are more “efficient” than others. A marathoner will burn less calories running 5K than a sedentary, 300 lb. person. But that doesn’t mean the physics is flawed. They’re burning LESS calories, because their body has been tuned to do the task efficiently (and they’re carrying less excess payload). The physics is still there.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes people burn calories at different rates. But that doesn’t mean that some people can eat whatever they want and not get fat. At the most basic level, they are still burning x calories per day. And if they consume y calories (where y > x), then they will, undeniably, gain weight.

    Yes, people are built differently. And some people will burn more calories than others, doing the same task. But that just means their BMR (Basal metabolic rate) is higher, and any calories consumed in excess of that will be stored as fat.

  46. Kevin says:

    I guess my issue with this whole “weight” argument (and I mean in general – not just in this thread) is that people use it as yet another excuse.

    “I’m fat because science doesn’t understand weight loss.”

    “Yes they do, it’s calories in – calories out. Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose wieght.”

    “No no, it’s not that simple, see look, there’s all these studies that say it’s NOT calories in – calories out. It’s hopeles. Nobody really understands how it works. That’s why I’m fat. There’s no point in trying because crash diets don’t work, and science is clueless to explain it.”

    “But just eat less than you burn.”

    “Stop judging me. Big people are just as beautiful as fit people. The fashion industry has brainwashed you to think thin is pretty and fat is ugly.”


  47. Riki says:

    Kevin – It’s because the world can’t be distilled down into such absolutes. Anybody who disregards the complexity of issues such as obesity does so willfully and without empathy or compassion.

    But I’m not going to argue with you.

  48. Kevin says:

    Riki: I agree that the details are complex and intricate, but the high-level math is simple, and based on undeniable physics. As I said earlier, if you eat more than you burn, the excess is stored as fat. How could it be any other way??? Where can that excess energy possibly go, if not stored in your fat cells? Can anybody explain that to me?

    Likewise, if I only ate 1,600 calories today, but I burned 2,200, then where did that extra 600 calories come from, if not my own energy stores (read:fat/glycogen)? How is it possible to burn more energy than I consumed, and NOT lose weight?

  49. Johanna says:

    Interesting that you mention beauty in your straw-conversation, Kevin, since nobody else in this thread has said anything about that.

    Interesting also that you seem to think anybody *needs* to present you with an “excuse” for having a body that does or doesn’t look a certain way.

  50. Riki says:

    Kevin, nobody disagrees with your physics.

    That’s what you don’t get. We aren’t arguing about the physics, we’re acknowledging the myriad of other factors that contribute to a persons ability or inability to lose weight. Evolution. Hormones. Emotion. Addiction. The thermodynamics of energy consumption are a tiny fraction of the equation when it comes to successfully losing weight but you don’t seem to get that.

    All of your long diatribes about calorie-burning efficiency and muscle mass and excuses totally miss the point.

  51. Tracy says:

    Kevin, Calories In/Calories out *as a diet philosophy* is based on the idea that an individual can control how calories are burned – it’s based on the idea that the human body is a controlled lab. It’s not the physics that’s wrong, it’s the *application*

  52. Kevin says:

    Riki: Oh, OK, then it seems we agree. Of course there are other factors affecting a person’s ability to follow the “eat less than you burn” rule. I never said there wasn’t. I was simply disagreeing those who claimed “eat less than you burn” doesn’t work (which is what calories in – calories out boils down to).

    Johanna: It was a hypothetical argument that sought to illustrate an example of how overweight people, when confronted with undeniable logic, often try to change the subject with strawmen arguments.

  53. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: The thing is, the number of calories you burn isn’t something you can control. Unless you’re a very serious athlete or do heavily physical labor, the majority of calories you burn in a day are spent just keeping your body alive and functioning. This is called basal metabolism – something you claimed once before didn’t exist, because you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Your basal metabolic rate can change based on how much you’re eating (and other factors). When you eat less, your body starts burning less. This is a feature, not a bug, and it’s an evolutionary advantage: If human bodies kept merrily burning their energy stores away at a constant rate regardless of how much food was coming in, then all of your ancestors would have died in famines, and you wouldn’t exist.

  54. Kevin says:


    “Calories In/Calories out *as a diet philosophy* is based on the idea that an individual can control how calories are burned”

    I’d never heard that interpretation. And while you may not be able to control how calories are burned, you can certainly control HOW MANY calories you CONSUME.

    I’ve always seen it portrayed as merely another term for “calorie counting.” That is, you keep track of your intake, and calculate how many calories you burn (your BMR plus exercise). As long as you maintain a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.

  55. Tracy says:

    Kevin – if you read the book I pointed you at in an earlier comment, you will see precisely why the physics doesn’t ‘work’

  56. Tracy says:

    Kevin – um, where do you think the ‘calories out’ portion comes into play then?

  57. Kevin says:


    “This is called basal metabolism – something you claimed once before didn’t exist”

    That’s absolutely ridiculous. I’ve NEVER claimed basal metabolism didn’t exist. I’ve been studying fitness and nutrition since before you hated men. BMR has always been a key component to my own fitness regimen.

  58. Kevin says:


    “Where do you think the ‘calories out’ portion comes into play then?”


  59. Tracy says:

    (I mean, even in your example you say ‘your BMR plus exercise’ – in which exercise is an attempt to *control how calories are burned* )

  60. Johanna says:

    “It was a hypothetical argument that sought to illustrate an example of how overweight people, when confronted with undeniable logic, often try to change the subject with strawmen arguments.”

    LOL. “Undeniable logic,” except for all the denials, which you keep ignoring.

    Also, if you want to argue with hypothetical people who aren’t here, go find them and argue with them, wherever they happen to be.

  61. Kevin says:


    OK, we agree that your body burns calories while “idling.”

    We agree that as your energy reserves (fat stores) are depleted, your body goes into “conservation” mode and slows down the rate at which it burns calories. This is not without consequence. You feel lethargic and tired.

    We agree that you can increase your calorie burn with exercise.

    We agree that if you eat less than you burn (even as that burn rate reduces due to “self-preservation” mode), you will lose weight. Right?

    We agree that there are myriad factors affecting a person’s ability to adhere to a calorie-deficit diet (social factors, upbringing, willpower, motivation, economic factors, convenience, etc.)

    So … what is it we disagree on again?

  62. Kevin says:


    OK, I think we’re just getting caught up on semantics here.

    I’m saying I can’t control HOW my body burns calories (doing routine things like breathing and digesting), but I CAN control HOW MANY calories it burns (by adding exercise).

    I can’t make it burn more calories doing routine things. I can’t (reasonably) control my BMR.

    All I can do is add extra stuff to burn more calories.

  63. Tracy says:

    Hey, you’re the one who disagreed with my definition!

    I’m saying you *can’t* control how many calories you burn – even by adding exercise. (‘More’ is not the same thing as ‘how many’ – that’s semantics, yes, but it’s ACCURATE)

    The whole calories in/calories out is based on the idea that an individual has far more control over what happens to the food that they consume than they do – and it is wrong. It has been proven wrong time and time again. It’s based on the idea that if you create a calorie deficit of 3500, you will lose a pound of fat. And that if you create a calorie surplus of 3500, you will add a pound of fat. Neither of these things will actually happen.

    You asked for studies/proof about that and I gave it to you and I am really not sure what else you want.

  64. Kevin says:


    “I’m saying you *can’t* control how many calories you burn – even by adding exercise.”

    Huh? OK, now I’m confused.

    Let’s say my BMR is 2,300 calories. That’s what I’ll burn just going about my day today. But if I go to the gym after work and spend an hour on the treadmill, I’ll burn an extra 800 calories (according to the machine).

    Are you saying I’m not actually burning those extra 800 calories? Or I would have burned them anyway, somehow? I don’t quite see what you’re getting at here.

    “It’s based on the idea that if you create a calorie deficit of 3500, you will lose a pound of fat. And that if you create a calorie surplus of 3500, you will add a pound of fat. Neither of these things will actually happen.”

    Again, I’m confused. What WILL actually happen then? Where will those extra 3,500 calories go, if not stored as fat, and I don’t do sufficient exercise to burn an additional 3,500 calories over my BMR?

    Are you saying that my body is hardwired to be a certain weight, and it will simply somehow “adjust” its BMR to burn those extra 3,500 through the normal course of my day, to keep me at the same weight? I know I just put words in your mouth, so please correct me if i’m misinterpreting you, but if that is in fact what you’re saying, then I don’t agree with that at all.

  65. Tracy says:

    Kevin, my more thorough explanation is stuck in moderation twice but yes, I am saying that those things are both false, as proven in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment – which if you’ve studied diet and nutrition extensively, you should have heard of.

    [In summary, if a deficit of 3500 calories involved the loss of a lb of fat, the men would have lost twice the weight they did]

  66. Baley says:

    Johanna, Tracy, Kevin et al, it sounds like the difference between your arguments is interpretation. Basically, you’re both saying the same thing, only the 3500 calorie deficit is harder to define. Kevin is right (consume 3500 fewer calories or burn 3500 more calories or some combo and lose a pound), but Tracy and Johanna are right, too, in that it’s hard to determine when you have burned those extra 3500 calories (eating less is the “easy” part). When the treadmill says you’ve burned 400 calories, for instance, it has no clue how many calories your body has actually burned (which varies due to all of the reasons cited by you folks above). But still, when your body does burn those 3500 EXTRA calories, you will lose a pound. It’s simple math, but difficult application. If you start eating 3500 calories fewer a week, you may lose a pound the first week but not the second, due to the possible decrease in bmr, right? But that still doesn’t change the fact that if your calories in are fewer than your calories out (burned during exercise or sitting still based on bmr), you will lose weight. Sure, things like thyroid issues affect this, but the math still applies!

  67. Johanna says:

    @Baley: It’s actually not a trivial difference. It’s the difference between “rules” like “cut 100 calories from your diet, and you’ll lose 10 pounds a year forever” being true and being false. It’s the difference between thinking “if you say you’ve cut calories and you’re not losing weight, you must be lying” and not.

    It’s also the difference between saying “losing weight is so easy that everyone can (and therefore should) do it” and questioning whether we’re asking people to go too far in pursuit of the ideal body. In the starvation experiment Tracy mentioned – in which participants were allowed more calories per day than they would be on many popular diet programs – many of the participants developed severe mental health problems. Is that worth it?

  68. Tracy says:

    @Baley – no, that’s exactly *NOT* what I am saying – I am saying “But still, when your body does burn those 3500 EXTRA calories, you will lose a pound. It’s simple math” is false.

  69. Tracy says:

    (and one reason it is false is because those 3500 calories may not come from fat)

  70. Tracy says:

    Also, what Johanna said!

  71. Tracy says:


    Ok, lets see how moderation treats me now!

    So, another example – the Vermont Prison Experiment. In it, prisoners (volunteers in exchange for early release) were fed a diet of 8000-10000 calories a day for 10 weeks, in attempt to achieve a weight gain of 25. That’s 560,000-700,000 calories.

    They gained an average of 36 lbs. 36 lbs is 126,000 calories (based on 3500 calories per pound of fat which is actually ALSO not true)

    You can clearly see that that’s a difference of between 434,000-574,000 calories … 6200 – 8200 per day (for men ranging between 130 and 185 lbs at the beginning of the study, who followed ‘normal prison routine’ – what do you think their BMR was?)

    Calories in/Calories out simply *isn’t true*

  72. Tracy says:

    Above should have read weight gain of 25%

  73. Johanna says:

    @Kevin #57: (Sorry, I missed this earlier.) So I guess comment #71 on the November 7, 2011 mailbag was written by some other Kevin, then?

  74. Tracy says:

    Hahaha, ok, I think the lesson I just learned here is that posts about Daylight Savings Time lead to long, involved threads about weight loss.

  75. Kai says:

    The biggest relevance of ‘this modern world’ is that it has air conditioners. In earlier times, that extra hour of daylight was often spent outside. Today, that extra hour is often spent inside with the air conditioner on. There is a very good chance that the extra time running an air conditioner outpaces any savings from the less time running lights. Unfortunately there is a lack of determinate study, but the theoretical math puts the value of daylight saving time into question.

  76. jim says:

    Tracy and/or Johanna, is one of the points your arguing basically summed up that : the basal metabolism rate will vary from individual to individual and it will vary based on an individuals current body weight?

  77. Johanna says:


  78. jim says:

    Thats nice.

  79. Tracy says:

    No. I’m not sure how you can get that from what I’m saying, which is “Calories In, Calories Out” is a myth.

    That’s not how the human body processes energy. It does not work like that. This has been proven by every single study *ever – NO study has demonstrated the calories in, calories out method for weight loss or weight maintenance. Many, many studies have demonstrated this. (This ‘not working’ is before the negative impact of starvation diets on mental and physical health …ie, they don’t work *and* they are harmful beyond that)

  80. Kevin says:


    Wow, not even giving me the link, making me look it up. You’re lucky I’m in a good mood tonight. ;)

    The first paragraph of that comment is obvious sarcasm.

    The second paragraph is consistent with my comments here: “Energy you consume and don’t use doesn’t just magically disappear because the person has ‘a good metabolism.'”

    I guess I could have been clearer, but obviously someone with a higher BMR (someone with a lot of muscle, which is metabolically active) is “using” that energy that is being consumed. Calories consumed in excess of their BMR (even if it’s a higher-than-average BMR) will still be stored as fat.

  81. Tracy says:

    And yet, the study I gave above proves *it does not work like that*

  82. Tracy says:

    (Not that there isn’t BMR, but that calories in excess of BMR do NOT have to be ‘burned off in activity or they will be stored as fat’ on a per calorie basis)

  83. Johanna says:

    Forget it, Tracy. You disagree with Kevin, so you must be lying.

  84. Tracy says:

    With the special ability to go back in time and falsify the data in hundreds of experiments :)

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